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What do Pet Airlines do?

Nicole Madison
Updated: May 17, 2024

A pet airline is specifically intended for pets and allows pets to travel in the main cabin during flights. In most cases, this type of company takes steps to ensure that pets are kept safe and comfortable for the duration of air travel. Often, this includes potty breaks for the pet and regular monitoring. Typically, pet airlines allow owners to check pets in for travel before going on to board commercial flights; owners pick up their pets at a prearranged time after the pet and commercial flights have reached the destination.

Pet airlines provide a way for pet owners to transport pets via air travel. Some pet owners prefer to use pet airlines because their pets do not have to suffer through cramped quarters and lack of attention while they are in the cargo hold of an airplane or placed under a seat during a commercial flight. These airlines typically allow pets to travel in the main cabin, where they are secured in their own pet carriers. As with human travelers on regular airlines, a great deal of care and attention is usually given to ensure that pets are both safe and comfortable while they are traveling.

To ensure that pets stay comfortable during air travel, pet airlines usually take a number of steps. For example, they climate control the main cabin to ensure that pets are not overly hot or cold while they are on the flight. These airlines often ensure the circulation of fresh air as well. Unlike commercial airlines, however, meals and snacks are not usually served during a pet airline flight. This is due to the fact that veterinarians often recommend against feeding during and a few hours before flights; withholding food temporarily may help pets avoid motion sickness.

Typically, pet airlines ensure that trained pet attendants are on board to see to the needs of animals during travel. For example, if it seems that a pet is in need of something to chew on during a flight, a pet attendant may provide it. Likewise, a pet attendant can administer medication based on the written instructions of the pet owner. Pet attendants may even provide regular potty breaks, so animals may be monitored for toileting needs.

As with human airline travel, pet airlines usually require reservations. The availability of flights and destinations varies from airline to airline. Policies for air travel and requirements for pet documentation may vary as well.

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Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By Perdido — On Nov 30, 2011

I wonder what the floors of pet airline planes are made of? I hope they don't have carpet! It has to be something that is easy to clean messes off of.

Where do the animals go on their potty breaks? Is there a designated “bathroom” area, perhaps covered in puppy training pads?

I imagine that the attendants on pet airlines have to be able to tolerate strong smells. You know that most of these animals will go to the bathroom in their carriers before they are let out for a break.

By letshearit — On Nov 29, 2011

@lonelygod - There is actually one pet airline that I would recommend, Pet Airways. While most large airlines let pets travel, most don't bother with attendants in cargo, or with the best temperature control. For my pet, I always send her in an airline pet carrier where she actually has a chance to get out and roam a bit in the cabin.

Pet Airways does charge by animal carrier size, so imagine that your dog would cost you about $600 or so to send across the US. Just be aware that flight schedules are really limited and they may not service the city you're landing in. Last time I checked Pet Airways they mostly used major cities like Los Angeles and New York for transit points.

By lonelygod — On Nov 29, 2011

Can anyone recommend some good pet airlines for dogs?

My family and I are going to be moving across country and we would like to get our dog on a flight at the same time we leave, as the moving company is taking care of hauling our stuff. We are just be flying to our new city, as the idea of driving across the country is less than appealing. We don't like the idea of the airline we're with flying just treating our pet like cargo though, so we're willing to pay to make sure he stays comfortable and happy. Also, do pet airlines generally charge more for larger dog travel? We have a Husky, so he's quite large.

By JaneAir — On Nov 28, 2011

@strawCake - Yeah, pet airlines do seem a lot more humane for dog travel. I know when pets travel in the cargo hold, they don't get bathroom breaks or anything like that. Sometimes flights can be really long! I imagine a lot of dogs probably go to the bathroom in their crates, and then have to basically sit in their waste. That can't be healthy.

That being said, I don't think I would take advantage of this option for just regular travel. I don't see the need to bring my pet with me just to go on vacation. However, if I were moving across the country I would absolutely use a pet airline!

By strawCake — On Nov 27, 2011

I actually read an article recently about an airline that lost a few pets that were traveling in the cargo hold. I would be so upset if something like this happened to my cat, so I think pet airlines for dogs and cats are an awesome idea.

I think it would be really inconsiderate to have pets travel in the main cabin of an airplane with people. Some people have allergies, and would be inconvenienced or worse by pets in the cabin! But the cargo hold sounds dangerous and unpleasant.

A pet airline is a great alternative if you absolutely have to travel with your pet.

By turquoise — On Nov 26, 2011

I have shipped my pets via pet airlines several times and they arrived healthy and happy every time. Yes, it does cost more than sending your pet to cargo, but cargo is not a suitable or safe place for pets.

A friend of mine didn't mind shipping her pets in cargo and when they arrived, they all looked very nerve-wrecked and scared. Not to mention that they stopped interacting with her for a long time to punish her.

I think cargo is a scary place for pets and I even heard from someone that in the case of a fire, the pets in cargo will die even if the fire doesn't reach there.

I'd rather pay up extra money than put my pets through that trauma and danger.

By fify — On Nov 26, 2011

@Mykol-- I agree with you that it wouldn't be worth paying so much for this service if I was just taking a short trip in the US. But if I'm planning to move abroad or something, this service is definitely worth the cost.

My family moved to the US when I was young and we actually brought our dog with us. Pet travel rules were not so strict during those years and my dog actually crossed the Atlantic in the plane sitting on our lap.

It was not easy though, we constantly tried to hide her so that people wouldn't be bothered and she couldn't use the bathroom the entire time. When we reached the US, we had another connecting flight where we had to send our dog under the plane and she almost got lost. We had lost hope of her returning when my dog came out to the baggage claim area hours later.

If I ever have to take a trip like this again, I would much rather send my dog on a pet carrier airline.

By burcidi — On Nov 25, 2011

Do any pet airlines allow pet owners to travel on board as well?

I know how difficult it is to travel with pets. I'm so worried during flights that something might happen to my dog because I'm not there with him. I would love to use pet airways, but only if I can be on the same flight.

Paying for travel in pet airways won't be advantageous for me if I can't be there with my dog. My dog is very attached to me and becomes very sad and stressed when he doesn't see me or feel me nearby. This is my main concern when I travel by regular airlines.

By John57 — On Nov 24, 2011

I am sure there are people who are willing to pay to have their pets taken care of like this.

I have a feeling we might see more pet friendly airlines like this, as our pets have become as important to us as our family members.

I think it would be a great job to work for a pet shipping airline company. I love to travel and I love animals, so what a perfect way to do something I love and make some money at the same time.

I wonder if you need any special kind of training to do something like this. It would probably be beneficial if you lived near a major city that was an airline hub, but would be interesting to check it out.

By Mykol — On Nov 23, 2011

What will they think of next to make sure our pets are pampered and cared for?

Don't get me wrong, I am a huge animal lover and treat my pets like my kids, but sometimes I think we carry things a bit too far.

I am wondering how much something like these pet travel airlines cost? It can be expensive enough just flying myself somewhere, but to add an expense like this might double the cost.

I am sure it costs more than having a friend keep your dog for you while you are gone, or paying for someone to check in on your pets everyday.

I have never flown with my pets, and often feel like it might be a traumatic experience for them. I know many of them are given drugs so they will remain calm while they are in the airline pet carrier.

My friend and I have an agreement that we will watch each other's dog when we are gone. This works out great, and I think this is what I will continue to do when I travel.

By cupcake15 — On Nov 23, 2011

Wow, I have never heard of such a thing. I guess that with all of the doggie bars and pet hotels, pet airline travel is just the next new thing to come out.

I understand the need to have your pets have a comfortable and stress-free flight, but this seems a bit much. I would rather have someone care for my pet than put them on an airplane like this. I think this is really extravagant and I would rather use the money for something else.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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